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Northern Ireland guide
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Last updated : Nov 2009
Northern Ireland Sports
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Northern Ireland is lined with canals and rivers, and there are many lakes and waterways. Because canals connect urban centres, hiring a boat is a good way of visiting towns while still enjoying the countryside. Many tour operators specialise in hiring out boats; for a list contact the English Tourism Council. Yachts and cabin cruisers can also be hired, and facilities abound in sailing areas such as the Norfolk Broads.


Loch Erne has become very popular for cruising holidays and several tour operators and local companies can arrange holidays; contact the Tourist Board for more details.


Cyclists are well catered for in Northern Ireland, and there are many designated routes. Some of these pass through towns and villages and some go through wilder areas. All are signposted and maintained, and bicycles can be hired.


Northern Ireland can offer the diving enthusiast several areas to explore; these include Strangford Lough, some 29km or 18 miles long and averaging 6km or 3.5 miles wide, a fascinating underwater world with many contrasting diving sites. The history of sea traffic has left a legacy of wrecks in and around the Lough such as the ‘Lees’ wreck, an old liberty ship now lying at 12m or 39ft, or the remains of the largest vessel on the Co Down coast, the American troop carrier ‘Georgetown Victory’. Also of interest is the rugged, towering coast of Rathlin Island, and Northern Ireland’s north coast.


Sea fishing is popular all along the coast and boats of all sizes can be hired at most resorts. Strangford Lough is famed for its skate and tope. Carlingford Lough is almost as good and the coast of Belfast Lough is dotted with sea angling clubs.

There are great waters for river and lake fishing, particularly in the Mournes area of Down, the Glens of Antrim and the River Bann, which is known for excellent salmon fishing. In most areas a rod licence and a coarse fishing permit are needed. Day permits are available; check at the nearest tackle shop or consult the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (see Contacts section).


Some of the best golf courses are located on the coast – at Whitehead, Bangor, Royal Portrush, Ballycastle, Royal County Down at Newcastle and the Chairndhu Club near Larne. Weekly and daily rates for playing are available from the club itself or the nearest tourist information centre.

Pony trekking

This is widely practised, especially in areas such as the mountains and forests around Newcastle and Castlewellan, the North Down coast and the Causeway coastennis.


Northern Ireland’s scenic beauty and varied landscapes make it a rewarding country to explore on foot. Forest trails, cliff-top paths and mountain hikes are accessible from the widely scattered villages and towns. Lake trails are good around Lough Neagh and the Fermanagh Lakeland. The Mourne Mountains and parks in County Down and the Nine Glens in County Antrim are also excellent for hiking.

Archaeological sites, such as stone-age tombs, stone circles (notably in Beaghmore), monasteries, Celtic crosses, Norman castles and 17th-century fortified houses offer interesting stopovers. The best known and longest trail (896km or 560 miles) is the circular Ulster Way, largely marked, which runs all around Northern Ireland. Another known marked trail is the North Down Coastal Path.

Special Interest

Northern Ireland offers many opportunities for special interest holidays, from poetry and pottery to cooking, gardening, painting or music. For details of companies that offer tailor-made special interest holidays, contact the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (see Contacts section).
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